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Frequently asked questions

30 March 2015

Why do parents elect to home educate?

There is no finite list which details all of the reasons for parents electing to home educate. Such decisions are often based on specific philosophical or cultural beliefs, or the individual needs of a child which indicate that home education may be of benefit to him/her. Parents may opt to home educate on a short term or long term basis, depending on the individual circumstances. 
The approaches to home education also vary from one family to another and often reflect the specific values of the home educating families. Some children are home educated from a very young age, others attend school and then engage in home education at a later stage within their compulsory education years.

Does the law allow parents to choose to educate their child at home?

Yes, it is perfectly lawful for a parent to elect to educate their child at home. This is made clear within section 7 of the Education Act 1996 which applies within England and Wales and states:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him (or her) to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
a: to his (or her) age, ability and aptitude, and
b: to any special educational needs he (or she) may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

How many hours of education will I be expected to offer my child?

There is no definition of ‘full-time’; however a child that receives an education within a school is expected to be engaged in educational activities for 23 to 25 hours per week – depending on their age. Parents who elect to home educate are not obliged to offer such education within ‘school hours’ or on ‘school days’. The law relating to elective home education allows for a more flexible approach.

What is ‘suitable’ and ‘efficient’ education?

The courts have considered home education arrangements and have provided some guidance on what is considered to be ‘suitable’ and ‘efficient’ education. They have said that education is efficient if it is “achieving that which it sets out to achieve” and is suitable if it “prepares the child for life in a modern civilised society and enables the child to achieve his (or her) full potential”.

What do I need to do if I want to educate my child at home?

If your child is registered with a school, we suggest that you arrange a meeting with the headteacher to discuss why you are considering deregistering your child. You have a duty to inform the headteacher, in writing, of your decision to electively home educate. Receipt of your written notification will allow the headteacher to lawfully de-register your child from their school. Informing the headteacher verbally is not enough. If you fail to fulfil this duty and simply stop sending your child to school, you may face legal action under section 444 Education Act 1996.
Once the school has received notification, in writing, of your decision to home educate, they have a duty to inform the Local Authority of their reasons for removing your child from their registers. Essex County Council maintains a register of all home education arrangements that are either shared with the Local Authority by schools/academies or by parents who have registered with us directly.

Can I home educate my child if he/she has a Statement of Special Educational Needs? 

Yes. Section 7 Education Act 1996 does apply to parents of children with special educational needs. Any child with a Statement of Special Educational Needs will have been assessed and a decision will have been taken about the most appropriate school for the child, based on their individual needs.
 A statement is a legal document. Where a parent decides that they would like to elect to educate their child ‘otherwise’, in other words not by regular attendance at the school named on the statement, they must de-register their child from the school by writing to the headteacher and notifying him/her of the decision that has been taken to home educate.
Please note that, where a child is a pupil at a special school, a parent is unable to de-register their child from the school to electively home educate, without the prior consent of the Local Authority. 
Where a child has a statement, the Local Authority will continue to fulfil its duties in respect of annual reviews and will hold an annual review for as long as the statement remains in place.

Will I receive any funding from the Local Authority to support with the education of my child at home?

No. By electing to home educate, you have chosen to accept full financial responsibility for the education of your child and will not receive any funding in this respect from the Local Authority. Parents are advised to consider the full cost implications of elective home education when making a decision about the appropriateness of this for their child/ family.
The cost of resources (e.g. exercise books, text books, educational visits/trips, writing equipment, computers/laptops, private tutors, etc) should be factored in to such considerations, alongside any costs that may be incurred if you wish for your child to sit public examinations.

Will the Local Authority provide a tutor to educate my child at home?

No. Elective home education is different to home tuition which is paid for and provided, on a temporary basis, by the Local Authority when a child is not able to attend school, for example due to medical reasons. However, you can choose to employ a tutor to assist you in meeting your duty to ensure that your child receives an efficient, full time education which is suitable to his/her age, ability and aptitude. The Local Authority would advise that you ensure that any tutors that you employ have had a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, formally known as a CRB check.

How can I arrange for my child to sit public examinations?

There is no specified approach to elective home education, no set curriculum that parents are expected to follow or requirement on parents to arrange for their child to sit public examinations. Where parents are keen for their child to sit public examinations e.g. GCSEs, then it is advisable that they cover the relevant curriculum to enable their child to have the best possible chances of success in such examinations.
Where parents are hoping for their child to engage in further education, e.g. at a sixth form college/college of further education, they should seek advice from their chosen college on the subjects that may need to be covered and any entry requirements that may be in place, in respect of their child’s preferred course options. Details of GCSE examination boards can be found on our useful contacts/addresses page.
There is no financial support available, via Essex County Council, for home educating parents who are seeking to have their child sit public examinations (e.g. GCSEs). Parents are advised to contact the various examination boards who will be able to advise on the availability of local examination centres where their child could sit their public examinations and also to seek advice about the potential cost implications. Our useful contacts/addresses page will provide you with contact details for the relevant examination boards.

Will I be contacted by the Local Authority in the future about my child’s education?  

Section 437(1) Education Act 1996 stipulates that:
 “if it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him (or her) to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.” 
If concerns are shared with the Local Authority which indicate that a child may not be in receipt of a suitable education, the Local Authority will make informal enquiries to ascertain if these concerns are justified. Parents are under no duty to respond to such informal enquiries; however the Department for Education advise that it would be sensible for them to do so.

What will happen if the education that parents are providing is deemed unsuitable?

The Local Authority has a statutory duty to instigate formal School Attendance Order proceedings if a parent, after informal enquiries and warnings, is unable to satisfy the Local Authority that they are providing a suitable education for their child. This means that if it appears that the education is not suitable, we will work with parents to support them to find a suitable school that they may register their child with, without delay.
If a parent then fails to enroll their child at a school of their choice, the Local Authority will be forced to issue a School Attendance Order which will name a specific school at which parents must register their child. This Order will remain in place for the remainder of the child’s compulsory school age entitlement. If parents do not comply with the School Attendance Order, the case will be presented before the Magistrates Court and parent may face a fine of up to £1000.
Please refer to page 6 of the following guidelines for further information about the use of School Attendance Orders: Department of Education EHE Guidelines.

What do I need to do if I want my child to return to education within a school?

If at any time you wish to return your child to school to receive an efficient full-time education, the admissions service will be able to advise on how to go about this. The normal admissions procedure will apply and will be subject to a place being available in the appropriate year group at your preferred local school.